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5 questions to Jannis Kounellis
On the occasion of the awarding of the 2011 Cortonantiquaria Prize along with the donation of the work Untitled 2011 to the town of Cortona, Exibart asks five questions to Jannis Kounellis regarding his work, his activity and more generally art in its broader areas ...

<b>5 questions to  Jannis Kounellis</b>

Published on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

 This exhibition at Palazzo Vagnotti can be added to an extended number of actions that have taken place in 2011 and have brought you, among other things, in China and now soon to Russia in September. Vagnotti Palace is known as the home to the antiques furniture shows. The environment is thus presented as a backdrop and memory storage, a particularly suited to your work. How was this project born?

First of all, I have a house and a study in Cortona ,on the border with Umbria, I have been working a lot here in recent years, moreover I always had friends in Cortona and then modulated throughout the years an artistic activity that can fit in an antiques exhibition.

Browsing through the news pages of culture, we hear more and more talks about a "return to reality", or rather of a New Realism. In September there will be a conference focused on this subject, starring western cultural stars such as Umberto Eco and John Searle. Gianni Vattimo himself, prophet of the post-modern era, when interviewed by Maurizio Ferraris for the daily paper La Repubblica, acknowledges the theories of post-modernism and looks carefully at New Realism. As you have said in one of our previous dialogues, a "ton of coal is real, it represents an immovable value. How do you collect this passage of history that appears to bring the "weight" as ethical and social value, even in the front of the "economy of numbers" crisis that led the West to shrink?

Hopefully there is realism, not a neo-realism. The Italian country is going through a difficult time but it was hard even when Carlo Levi wrote "Christ Stopped at Eboli." One must, each with their own language, try to be present with people. This does not imply the concept to dump the internationalism in which we grew up but to be critical of a virtual mode that destroyed the idea of the value analysis. Fortunately poetry has never been virtual, though.

Ai Wei Wei è un altro argomento centrale del dibattito corrente nell’arte. Exibart ha più volte riportato gli aggiornamenti sulle vicissitudini dell’architetto cinese. Nel 2010 hai realizzato i tuoi primi lavori in Cina. Come hai vissuto questa lunga storia di Ai Wei Wei da dentro il sistema cinese? Hai incontrato forme di censura? Come valuti l’arte cinese contemporanea nel suo legame profondo con la tradizione?

Ai Wei Wei is another focus of current debate in the art scene. Exibart has repeatedly reported updates on the vicissitudes of the Chinese artist. In 2010 you made your first work in China. How did you live the long Ai Wei Wei history from within the Chinese system? Have you met any censor features? How do you rate contemporary Chinese art in its deep bond with tradition? 
I met in Beijing Ai Wei Wei and I think he has an idea of space, which is very close to ours, and also his recent exhibition at the Tate in London proves it. The criticism towards the government is a typical Western attitude, in the case of Ai Wei Wei it is exercised by an artist that by doing so indicates the tendency of modern Chinese reflected on an international level, and therefore seeks dialogue. I think this is good because it shows the attachment and love for their country and points out that the mythology of the market, so much emphasized, doesn’t have as much as a central role as the idea of the quality in human relationships there demonstrated. The dream of overcoming the stupidity that goes hand in hand with the development of libertarian attitudes must be found first and foremost in a radical approach in their work. The West today attracts Chinese artists because it has developed and formalized over the years the boundaries of language issues and now that the borders are open the attraction feels stronger. II believe that in the near future, the traditions of China, as deep as 5000 years old, will come to the surface and this will be an important action that will give us art pieces with a different logic.

Russia will be a great new challenge for that area of the world that was historically identified with Eurasia. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s construction. Even that one was a strong, heavy, image fortunately now visually cleared, which left a deep wound in Western culture. Since 1989 the gap is perhaps more serious due to the Russian cultural and economic renaissance which was never fully realized. The relationship between Russia and Greece evokes deep spiritual values. How do you prepare your participation in this Biennale in Moscow? What are the keys to recover the spirituality in Western art, which seems to have dissolved?

I already had a show in Moscow in 1991, a retrospective organized by Italy at the Tretyakov Gallery. I am very happy to go back in order to continue the dialogue begun 20 years ago and take a new job in the immense space of a former chocolate factory. This exhibition will also host the Moscow Biennale. Surely, to go to Moscow is not like going to China, it is a European city with Slavic tradition, and Malevich is a sample of the Eastern Christian spirituality which the American minimalists are so close with. Spirituality in art is a constant, however, although there are trends such as globalization in economic policies that cover it with a whole different light. We must emphasize with the recent efforts made by the Catholic Church in order to get a dialogue with contemporary art.

The economic bubble dramatically burst is dragging with it the prospects of development for an entire continent. From United States to Europe, the crisis and the prospects of depression also involve the art sector. With the possibility of converting the current economy of art, which is unfortunately severely compromised with the global economic and industrial system, how do you think you can build a new economy that especially guarantee the cultural growth of a country? Are there any proposals that you think may especially apply to Italy?

The art stock market was born in America, some artist worked on the stock market even, but it never crossed my mind of a hermit to consider art as a source of speculation. Issues give rise to images and the language formalizing them, the economy in comparison is a minor problem faced to the will to build an incisive icon. Italy and Germany are moving on the same frequency but are run by very different bourgeoisie. Germany in the distant past has created the first museums of contemporary art that found the hidden cultural incisiveness in a painted image; but I now want to praise the Italian artists who, while acting in a harsh reality, they still have held high poetic play with force. Of course I, along with some others, sail on that boat, from an island to another with the hope to see as much as possible in order to tell then, with a new language, the images we have seen and the sunsets which we have witnessed.
curated by angelo capasso


Reserved Reproduction